Twenty Arrested For Distributing Drugs
Members of an alleged Woodhaven-based drug trafficking ring have been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute heroin, the FBI announced on Tuesday, Mar. 13.
According to the indictment and a detention letter filed by the government, the group-known as the Perez Organization-ran distribution networks in Nassau and Suffolk counties and a storage facility in Brooklyn. The organization’s members were al- legedly responsible for distributing over 20 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of at least $2.75 million, to drug dealers in Long Island and Queens during the past nine months.
Federal sources said the indictment and arrests were the result of a nine-month joint investigation titled “Operation County Connection,” which was conducted by members of the FBI and the Nassau County Police Department, with cooperation from the NYPD, the Suffolk County Police Department and the U.S. Marshals for the Eastern District of New York.
Reportedly, the probe was launched in response to an increased rate of heroin use within Long Island communities.
Through reviews of hours of court-authorized wiretaps, law enforcement agents documented numerous purchases and sales of heroin by the defendants and conducted numerous undercover purchases of heroin.
During the course of the investigation, federal authorities said, more than 5,400 individual doses of heroin were recovered from members of the Perez Organization. The agents also executed search warrants at four heroin storage locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and Roosevelt, L.I., resulting in the seizure of, among other things, heroin with a street value of over $30,000 and thousands of dollars in cash.
The government’s investigation exposed the depth and breadth of heroin trafficking activity in the Eastern District of New York, as the Perez Organization’s alleged reach stretched across community and demographic boundaries.
Among the defendants charged in this case are 68-year-old Roland Stern, a retired Suffolk County Marine Bureau Police Officer, and his 37-year-old daughter Corey Stern; 29-year-old Tina and 24-year-old Matthew Catrini, a married couple; 21-year-old Kathryn Pappas, a college student; and 23-year-old Dana Sollecito, who allegedly sold heroin from the parking lot of the “Corner Gallery,” her family’s restaurant in Massapequa.
Also indicted in the case were 26- year-old Jose Perez (a.k.a. Jay, Ule and Fat Boy), 27-year-old Norberto (a.k.a. JR) Rodriguez, 26-year-old Wilfred (a.k.a. E and EZ) Castillo, 38-year-old Jose (a.k.a. Junior) Tavares, 30-year-old Rafael (a.k.a. Ralphy) Pichardo, 30-year-old William (a.k.a. Billy), 33-year-old Edwin Adames, 25-year-old Leonardo (a.k.a. Leo) Lopez, 22- year-old Sean (a.k.a. White Boy) Brunette, 22-year-old Anderson (a.k.a. Andy) Taveras, 33-year-old Kenneth (a.k.a. Kenny) Suarez, 28- year-old Eric Suarez, 50-year-old Josephine (a.k.a. Josephina) Javis and 33-year-old Felix (a.k.a. Pun and Bori) Vargas.
“The charges and arrests announced today have ended the activities of an alleged heroin distribution organization whose members were drawn from a variety of backgrounds but were united by common cause- profiting personally while seriously endangering the lives of so many residents in our communities,” stated Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “This office is committed to using coordinated law enforcement techniques to rid our streets and neighborhoods from the scourge of heroin and other controlled substances. We will not end this pursuit until our mission is accomplished.”
“As alleged in the indictment, the Perez Organization was responsible for a significant portion of the heroin distributed on Long Island,” added Janice K. Fedarcyk, assistant director in charge of the FBI. “Heroin use among suburban teens is alarmingly popular, and today’s heroin is more potent and less expensive than ever. A potentially lethal dose can be purchased for about the cost of a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack of beer.”
If convicted of the heroin distribution conspiracy charge, each of the defendants faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles N. Rose and Licha M. Nyiendo.
It was noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.